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Are 18-19 HCP enough for strong 2♣? – by Milan Macura

The first tournament of 2020 broke the records. For the first time, we have reached over 1,000 players in one tournament and we were close to over 2,000 in both tournaments combined: 811 players participated in the MP tournament and 1,163 players in the IMP one.

MPs results

IMPs results

Are 18-19 HCP enough for strong 2♣?


MPs results

It was possible to reach over 85% with the cards but you had to hit the jackpot on at least 4 boards.

Lordy (FR) was the most successful in making the best decisions and won the first tournament of the year with 80.28%, followed by Bruno (BR) with 79.86%. Third place goes to Luc Barbier (FR) with 77.51%.

Lizzzy (USA) was the best among my friends with 66.31%. The minimum percentage needed to get on the list – 54.56% – shows how difficult the boards were. I didn’t make the right decisions on several boards and finished with 48.04%.

General ranking
Milan’s friends ranking

IMPs results

The IMP tournament was quite standard and with a bit of luck and a good decision on board 6, it was possible to make +41 IMPs. Shay Cameo (IL) managed to do that and won the first IMP tournament. Hervé (FR) finished second with +37 IMPs, followed by Vincent (FR) with +36 IMPs. I am happy to top my friends’ list with +28 IMPs.

General ranking
Milan’s friends ranking

Let’s have a look on the key decision in IMPs on board 6

You open 1NT with the following hand, LHO overcalls 2♠ and partner doubles for takeout. What do you do?

For me, it was even questionable to open 1NT, but the 5-card club suit and the sequences in hearts and clubs pushed me into it. North’s double is takeout and shows 8+ HCP and minimum 4♥. Even vulnerabilities are in favor of passing the double, we cannot be sure to beat the contract, especially because of the doubleton ♠Q. The lack of primary values is another indicator that you should bid your clubs at the 3-level. If you do so, partner bids 3NT and you can make all 13 tricks after a small spade lead.

Here is the full board:

Since North has 15 HCP and 4 cards in spades, 2♠ goes down four for +1,100 for NS. The bold decision to pass can bring you +11 IMPs instead of losing 2 for a standard 3NT. Passing takeout doubles without long and good trumps is a risk and will benefit only rarely – better not try it too often.

Are 18-19 HCP enough for strong 2♣ or is it better to just open at the 1-level?

Before we look at the hands from the MP tournament, we should discuss the meaning of the 2♣ opening and the strategy after it.

The 2♣ opening is the strongest bid in a lot of systems. If you play natural, you can also use 2♦ for even stronger hands and use 2♣ for almost GF hands. It has pros and cons to use both bids and if you don’t have a better option for 2♦, I recommend using it. The definition of 2♣ is more than 20-23 HCP but you can open weaker, starting from 18 HCP if the hand fulfills some requirements.

Requirements for the 2♣ opening with 18-19 HCP

  • 1-suited hand, near-solid 6+ or better
  • minimum two aces
  • 4 losers where maximum 3 are on A or K

PROS for both 2♣ and 2♦ strong

  • Balanced hands from 18 HCP are divided into several HCP ranges: 1X-1Y-2NT = 18-19, 2NT = 20-21, 2♣-2X-2NT = 22-23, 2♦-2X-2NT = 24-25, 2♦-2X-3NT = 26-27.
  • Unbalanced hands can be divided by number of losers – 1-level = 5-7 losers, 2♣ = 4 losers, 2♦ = less than 3 losers.
  • The 1-level opening is limited to maximum 19 HCP or 5 losers so can be passed even with K and Q. Describing the opener’s hand is easier since you don’t need to artificially force to game.
  • Slam bidding is easier since you can respond after 2♣/♦ based on your strength and number of key cards (controls): 2♣-2♦ = 1-2 useful honors (A, K, QQ or better), 2♣-2♥ = 0 honors (Q+J or less), 2♣-2♠ = 3 useful honors (AQ+A, A+K+K and better), 2♦-2♥ = no Ace or two kings, 2♠ = major ace, 2NT = two kings or 8+ HCP, 3♣ = minor ace.

CONS for both 2 and 2 strong

  • You don’t have the 2♦ opening for a preemptive hand.
  • GF openings don’t appear very often. On the other hand, when you get such a hand, you play for a lot of IMPs. In MP, every hand has the same value and preempts appear more often.

Consider the following hands from the MP tournament and try to predict the final contract and the bidding sequence:

Hand 1

18 HCP and 4 losers, consider it a 2-suiter. The 4 losers are on aces and kings. We have possibly 9 quick tricks,but missing stoppers in spades and diamonds. Open 1♥ and then jump to 3♣ to show a strong hand and preference to play in 4♥ or 3NT from partner’s hand.

6NT scores 99.12% if you make it and if clubs and hearts break.

Hand 2

19 HCP and 4 losers, consider it a 2-suiter. Even if we have a 6-card spade suit, we can play also in hearts. You can open 2♣ and rebid 2♠ after partner’s 2♦ response. If you have a chance, show the 4-card heart suit and let partner choose the final contract.

After the A♣ lead, you can make 3NT. All 3 suits split bad so making a game is difficult but possible. 3NT just made scores 85.27%. Hearts and spades break bad so major game is not possible to make after the club lead.

Hand 3

19 HCP and 5 losers, but all 4 aces, consider this hand as a 1-suiter. We prefer to play the contract from partner’s hand to guard his queens. Spades are good so 4♠ is the first alternative and 3NT from partner’s hand second. You have rebid issues so 2♣ is an option even with 5 losers. If you open 1♠, you have to jump to 3NT if partner responds 1NT. Finding the spade fit 6-2 will be difficult if you don’t have any convention.

Hand 4

19 HCP and balanced hand. You should not count losers with balanced hands, but if you try, you have 6, which indicate you should play NT. A standard sequence will put you in 3NT which can make for 69.36%.

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